Lyndon Johnson’s birthday, August 27, 1908

August 27, 2021

President Lyndon Johnson on the telephone, White House, September 10, 1965. LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson was born August 27, 1908. One of the most active, ambitious and controversial presidents, he competes with James Madison for the title of “best legislator” among presidents. Today is his 113th birthday.

Several groups in Texas and Washington celebrate LBJ’s birthday each year, an event he always liked to keep festive, partly because he had a huge ego, and partly because he just loved a good time with friends and cake.

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Time for a nice, cold glass of Dunning-Kruger

August 16, 2021

Ad for Dunning-Kruger Whisky, for when you know more than the doctors about medicine.

“When you know more than the doctors who’ve spent their entire careers studying infectious diseases, it’s time for a Dunning-Kruger.”

I wish there were a requirement for inventors of internet memes to sign their work. Who gets credit for this whisky advertising mashup?

Now there’s a video ad, from Dr. Rohin Francis.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Nish Gandhi, DO @supreme_doc.

More:


Signs of life: Curvy roads, cows and snakes

July 31, 2021

Beleaguered sign makers will tell you, sometimes it’s damnably difficult to make signs make sense to motorists who speed by faster than they should — and sometimes, the story is just too difficult for pictures.

Take this one, posted on Twitter by @Weasel3071:

What does this sign mean? Sign near Bolinas, wherever than is. On Twitter from @Weasel3071.

@Weasel3071 asked reasonably, “What is happening here?

What do you think, Dear Reader?

Responses cover a lot of territory, and of course the flying cows of “Tornado” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” got mentions.

One response appears to come from an actual sign maker, who expresses sign maker frustration.

Other responses hint that some people may be modifying actual cow warning signs, in New Mexico or Nevada.

Not just once, but twice — so you know it must be true.

What say you, dear reader? Falling cows? Snake eating a cow?

And, shouldn’t it be “.1 mile” instead of “miles?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to @Weasel3071.


Remembering when government gave humanity hope for the future — A giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969

July 19, 2021

A running whine on Twitter and Facebook: ‘Can you name anything government ever got right?’

One such occasion was July 20, 1969, when humans first put foot on the Moon.

It’s a day to remember history.  Do you remember that day, the first time humans landed on the Moon?

God knows we could use more Americans to have faith in the good intentions of NASA scientists today; we could use more dreams like those NASA gave us then, too.

Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff, worth missing school.

By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Earthrise from Apollo 11, before the Moon landing

Moonrise from Apollo 11 prior to Moon landing.

Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.“), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.

The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again. Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.

The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.

By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 scheduled for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.

Then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer.  Out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed Sunday night knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.

Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.

And so it was that I got to watch as on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,” was what he meant to say in a transmission that was famously garbled (at least he didn’t say anything about jelly doughnuts).

NASA provided a video compilation for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009:

P. Z. Myers says he remembers a lawnmower going somewhere. It must have been very bright in Seattle. (Thanks for the reminder, P.Z., and a tip of the old scrub brush to you.)

2021 marks the 52nd anniversary.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) used to list 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers used to add the end of the Cold War, 1991; I usually included Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)

Happy to report the Texas State Board of Education has caught on. TEKS dates now include 1968 and assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1969 and Apollo 11, plus the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president.

* Why 1968 was such a tough year, in roughly chronological order: 1968 produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot-out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot-out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!

More, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

And even more:

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post with updates. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


Happy birthday, Peter Schickele – 86 on July 17, 2021; biographer of P. D. Q. Bach

July 17, 2021

The genius behind P. D. Q  Bach, and the compoaser of the score to Silent Running, is 86 today.  Happy birthday, Peter Schickele!

This is a mostly encore post, of course.

Peter Schickele, born 1935, and some hope, immortal.

Peter Schickele, born 1935 in Ames, Iowa, and some hope, immortal.

May he live to be a happy, robust, still-composing, still performing 139, at least.

Some people know him as a great disk jockey. Some people know him as the singer of cabaret tunes. Some people know and love him as a composer of music for symphony orchestra, or to accompany Where the Wild Things Are.

Peter Shickele, left, and P. D. Q. Bach, together, in happier times.

Then there are those happy masses who know him for his historical work, recovering the works of Johann Sebastian Bach’s final and most wayward child, P. D. Q. Bach.

One need not be a classical music fan to appreciate much of the humor in Schickele’s work. But if one is familiar with classical music and the tropes of critics and artists, there will be added nuances and fits of laughter.

Shickele has spent his life having a great time in music, and spreading cheer. A life well lived.

Happy birthday!

Tip of the old bathtub-hardened conductor’s baton to Eric Koenig.

Heh.  The old “encore post” graphic is really appropriate here.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


July 2021: When do we fly the flag?

July 14, 2021

Caption from NASA: The American flag heralded the launch of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, on July 16, 1969. The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin

Caption from NASA: The American flag heralded the launch of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, on July 16, 1969. The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin at 9:32 a.m. EDT. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon’s surface while Collins orbited overhead in the Command Module. Armstrong and Aldrin gathered samples of lunar material and deployed scientific experiments that transmitted data about the lunar environment. Image Credit: NASA

[Yes, we’re running late with this post for July. Apologies. You can always check the list of all dates, or last year’s post.]

July 4. Surely everyone knows to fly the flag on Independence Day, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.*

In the month of the grand patriotic celebration, what other dates do we fly the U.S. flag? July 4 is the only date designated in the Flag Code for all Americans to fly the flag.  Three states joined the union in July, days on which citizens of those states should show the colors, New York, Idaho and Wyoming.

Plus, there is one date many veterans think we should still fly the flag, Korean War Veterans Armistice Day on July 27.  Oddly, the law designating that date urges flying the flag only until 2003, the 50th anniversary of the still-standing truce in that war.  But the law still exists.  What’s a patriot to do?

Patriots may watch to see whether the president issues a proclamation for the date.

Generally we don’t note state holidays or state-designated flag-flying events, such as Utah’s Pioneer Day, July 24, which marks the day in 1847 that the Mormon pioneers in the party of Brigham Young exited what is now Emigration Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley. But it’s a big day in Utah, where I spent a number of years and still have family. And I still have memories, not all pleasant, of that five-mile march for the Days of ’47 Parade, in that wool, long-sleeved uniform and hat, carrying the Sousaphone. Pardon my partisan exception. Utahns will fly their flags on July 24.

Days of '47 Parade in SLC, 2017

View of part of the route of the Days of ’47 Parade route, along Main Street in Salt Lake City. Photo by Steve Griffin of the Salt Lake Tribute, 2017

July’s flag flying dates, chronologically:

  • Idaho statehood, July 3 (1890, 43rd state)
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Wyoming statehood, July 10 (1890, 44th state)
  • New York statehood, July 26 (1788, 11th state)
  • National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, July 27 (flags fly at half-staff, if you are continuing the commemoration which was designated in law only until 2003; tradition keeps proclamations coming)

More:

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* July 4? But didn’t John Adams say it should be July 2?  And, yes, the staff at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub sadly noted that, at most July 4 parades, it appears no one salutes the U.S. flag as it passes, as the Flag Code recommends — though there were several people properly saluting the leading flags at the Duncanville Independence Day parade in 2021. MFB’s been fighting flag etiquette ignorance since 2006. It’s taking much, much longer than we wished.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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John Adams was SO wrong about the Fourth of July? You just heard about it in 2021?

July 4, 2021

John Adams, by By John Trumbull, 1793. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
John Adams, by By John Trumbull, 1793. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Surely John Adams knew that July 4 would be Independence Day, didn’t he?

In writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, John Adams committed one of those grand errors even he would laugh at afterward. We’ll forgive him when the fireworks start firing.

1776 filled the calendar with dates deserving of remembrance and even celebration. John Adams, delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, wrote home to his wife Abigail that future generations would celebrate July 2, the date the Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Britain for 13 of the British colonies in America.

Continental congress DSC_0607
Scene of the crime — Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Second Continental congress approved the resolution to declare the colonies independent from Britain – (Photo credit: National Park Service)

Two days later, that same Congress approved the wording of the document Thomas Jefferson had drafted to announce Lee’s resolution to the world.

Today, we celebrate the date of the document Jefferson wrote, and Richard Henry Lee is often a reduced to a footnote, if not erased from history altogether.

Who can predict the future?

(You know, of course, that Adams and Jefferson both died 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826. In the 50 intervening years, Adams and Jefferson were comrades in arms and diplomacy in Europe, officers of the new government in America, opposing candidates for the presidency, President and Vice President, ex-President and President, bitter enemies, then long-distance friends writing almost daily about how to make a great new nation. Read David McCullough‘s version of the story, if you can find it.)

(Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Another history issue that arose in conversations today — I thought everyone knew this.)

More, and Related articles:

The Lee Resolution.
The Lee Resolution, passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 – Wikipedia image (Wait a minute: Are those numbers added correctly? What are they?)
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Flag etiquette for the 4th of July, 2021

July 4, 2021

Did you really need a reminder to fly your flag today? The elves and bookworms at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub were hoping to get a whole weekend off . . .

A few questions came my way this morning at a gathering. So, this post from 14 years ago seems appropriate.

Every kid should learn this stuff by third grade, but it’s clear from what we see that they don’t.

Flag flying in front of U.S. Capitol (East side) LOC photo

So here’s a quick review of dos and don’ts for display and behavior toward the U.S. flag on this most flag-worthy of days, the 4th of July. With a few comments.

1. Fly your flag, from sunup to sundown. If you’re lucky enough to have a flagpole, run the flag up quickly. Retire it slowly at sunset. Then go see fireworks.

2. Display flags appropriately, if not flown from a staff. If suspended from a building or a wall, remember the blue field of stars should always be on its right — the “northwest corner” as you look at it. Do not display a flag flat.

3. Salute the flag as it opens the 4th of July parade. In a better world, there would be just one U.S. flag at the opening of the parade, and the entire crowd would rise as it passes them in a great patriotic, emotional wave — civilians with their hands over their hearts, hats off; people in uniform saluting appropriately with hats on. It’s likely that your local parade will not be so crisp. Other entries in the parade will have flags, and many will be displayed inappropriately. A true patriot might rise and salute each one — but that would look silly, perhaps even sillier than those sunshine patriots who display the flag inappropriately. Send them a nice letter this year, correcting their behavior. But don’t be obnoxious about it.

4. Do not display the flag from a car antenna, attached to a window of a car, or attached in the back of a truck. That’s against the Flag Code, which says a flag can only be displayed attached to the right front fender of a car, usually with a special attachment. This means that a lot of the National Guard entries in local parades will be wrongly done, according to the flag code. They defend the flag, and we should not make pests of ourselves about it. Write them a letter commending their patriotism. Enclose the Flag Code, and ask them to stick to it next time. Innocent children are watching.

5. Do not dishonor the flag by abusing it or throwing it on the ground. It’s become popular for a local merchant to buy a lot of little plastic flags and pass them out to parade goers. If there is an advertisement on the flag, that is another violation of the Flag Code. The flag should not be used for such commercial purposes. I have, several times, found piles of these flags on the ground, dumped by tired people who were passing them out, or dumped by parade goers who didn’t want to carry the things home. It doesn’t matter if it’s printed on cheap plastic, and made in China — it is our nation’s flag anyway. Honor it. If it is worn, dispose of it soberly, solemnly, and properly.

That’s probably enough for today. When the Flag Desecration Amendment passes — if it ever does — those parade float makers, National Guard soldiers, and merchants, can all be jailed, perhaps. Or punished in other ways.

Until that time, our best hope is to review the rules, obey them, and set examples for others.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! Fly the flag. Read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Love your family, hug them, and feed them well. That’s part of the Pursuit of Happiness that this day honors. It is your right, your unalienable right. Use it wisely, often and well.


Juneteenth is a federal holiday — fly your flag June 18 and June 19

June 18, 2021

Once the Senate opposition to making Juneteenth a federal holiday, the bill moved rapidly through the Senate where it was approved on unanimous consent, and the House of Representatives, where it passed overwhelmingly, with 14 nay votes out of 335 Members.

President Joe Biden signed it into law today, on June 17. Can the federal government move fast enough to actually honor the holiday this year?

This new law inserts Juneteenth in the law governing when flags should be flown for holidays and commemorations — so we might assume without looking too much deeper, we should fly the U.S. flag on Friday, June 18, when the federal holiday is celebrated with a day off, and on Saturday, June 19, the actual date of Juneteenth.

Fly your flag Friday and Saturday, for Juneteenth, noting triumphs of freedom over slavery, accurate information over destructive propaganda, and a great advance in human rights for the world.

Text of S. 475, the Juneteenth national holiday bill, in its full text

Text of the law making Juneteenth a federal holiday; enrolled version from the U.S. Senate.

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Flag Day 2021! (Fly your flag all week) – A teacher started it

June 11, 2021

Of course you know to fly your flag on June 14 for Flag Day — but did you know that the week containing Flag Day is Flag Week, and we are encouraged to fly the flag every day?

Clifford Berryman's 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives:

Clifford Berryman’s 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives: “In this June 14, 1904, cartoon, Uncle Sam gives a lesson to schoolchildren on the meaning of Flag Day. Holding the American flag in one hand, Uncle Sam explains that the flag has great importance, unlike the Vice Presidency, which he ridicules in a kindly manner. (National Archives Identifier 6010464)”

The 105th Congress in 1998 passed a law designating the week in which Flag Day falls as Flag Week, encouraging Americans to fly the flag the entire week. In 2021 that runs from Sunday, June 13, through Saturday, June 19.

Our National Archives has a blogged history of Flag Day pointing out it was a teacher who started Flag Day celebrations.

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk at the Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The 19-year-old teacher then asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance to them. This small observance marked the beginning of a long and devoted campaign by Cigrand to bring about national recognition for Flag Day.

And so we do, today, still.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


June 2021: Dates we fly Old Glory

June 4, 2021

“Flag Day, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” 1942 photo by John Vachon (1914-1975) for the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. Image from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

June holds only two days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, and six statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.  Plus, there is National Flag Week.

Two Flag Code-designated days:

  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Fathers Day, third Sunday in June (June 20 in 2021)

Several states celebrate statehood. New Hampshire, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia celebrate statehood; Kentucky and Tennessee share the same date.

  • Kentucky, June 1 (1792, 15th state)
  • Tennessee, June 1 (1796, 16th state)
  • Arkansas, June 15 (1836, 25th state)
  • West Virginia, June 20 (1863, 35th state)
  • New Hampshire, June 21 (1788, 9th state), and
  • Virginia, June 25 (1788, 10th state)

Additionally, Congress passed a resolution designating the week in which June 14th falls as National Flag Week, and urging that citizens fly the flag each day of that week.  In 2021 that would be the week of June 13, which falls on Sunday, through June 19.

Flag-flying days for June, listed chronologically:

  1. Kentucky and Tennessee statehood, June 1
  2. Flag Day, June 14; National Flag week, June 10 to 16
  3. Arkansas statehood, June 15 (duplicating a day in National Flag Week)
  4. Fathers Day, June 17
  5. West Virginia statehood, June 20
  6. New Hampshire statehood, June 21
  7. Virginia statehood, June 25

As you know, any resident may fly the flag any day of the year, under the etiquette provided in the Flag Code.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike’s Blog Rounds at Crooks and Liars — thanks for the plug way back then!

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day - 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day – 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

Flag Day, 1918, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Miles F. Weaver (1879-1932), from the collection of the National Archives (NARA)

Flag Day, 1918, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Miles F. Weaver (1879-1932), from the collection of the National Archives (NARA)

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Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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Memorial Day 2021 – Fly your flag today

May 31, 2021

Fly your flag today for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, flags should be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to full staff (and retired at sunset).

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Just a reminder: When posting a flag to half-staff, it should be raised with gusto to full staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position.  On Memorial Day, when changing the flag’s position at noon, simply raise the flag briskly to full staff.  At retirement, the flag should be lowered in a stately fashion.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

U.S. Flag Code asks for flag flying only on the actual Memorial Day holiday, which floats on the last Monday in May. It’s become tradition in much of Texas to fly flags all through the weekend. Fine by me.

Most residential flag poles lack a way to display a flag at half staff. In that case, fly the flag at full staff.

More:

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Quote of the moment, from Shakespeare: Life, full of sound and fury

May 23, 2021

These are odd, vexing and troubling times.

Poster for the 1948 movie production of Macbeth, starring Orson Welles

I’m not sure whether this counts as inspirational; it struck a chord for me tonight, referring to the lives of high school students and teachers since March 2020.

Inspirational or not, it may stop you and make you think.

BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow”

(from Macbeth, spoken by Macbeth)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Borrowed from The Poetry Foundation

Seminal DDT source: Cottam’s 1946 monograph on harms of DDT, USFWS “Circular 11”

May 10, 2021

Cover of 1946 USFWS publication, Circular 11, “DDT: Its Effect on Fish and Wildlife”

Rachel Carson knew Clarence Cottam, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and an active researcher. Cottam and Elmer Higgins, Chief of the Division of Fishery Biology at USFWS published a monograph in 1946 on the harms of the then-new insecticide DDT, with suggestions on how to use it more safely. It was an early publication from USFWS, indicated by the title, Circular 11.

Dr. Clarence Cottam, USFWS Assistant Director

Dr. Clarence Cottam, USFWS Assistant Director

This was one of the earliest publications to document harms from DDT across the spectrum of DDT use and the spectrum of wildlife.

Finding the publication in libraries now is difficult. Funding cuts at many libraries encouraged them to throw away materials not heavily used, and this one was not the most popular in most libraries who may have had it.

So when I ran into a .pdf of the circular on a NOAA site, I downloaded it, and I make it available to you here.

In the introduction Cottam and Higgins explain why the monograph was published:

Most organic and mineral poisons are specific to a degree; they do not strike the innumerable animal and plant species with equal effectiveness; if these poisons did, the advantage of control of undesirable species would be more than offset by the detriment to desirable and beneficial forms. DDT is no exception to this rule. Certainly such an effective poison will destroy some beneficial insects, fishes, and wildlife.

The circular said when DDT was used, deaths resulted in mammals, amphibians, birds and fish.

DDT history revisionists are fond now of saying DDT is “harmless” and “safe.” This 1946 publication makes clear that neither is true. While it may take a large dose to cause acute harm to large mammals, like cattle and humans, it is quite deadly to smaller wildlife in all branches.

Cottam and Higgins recommended caution, reducing does of DDT in use, and careful monitoring after use.

Use DDT only where it is needed. Wherever it is applied by airplane, provide careful plane-to-ground control to insure even coverage and to prevent local overdosage.

In forest-pest control, wherever feasible, leave strips untreated at the first application to serve as undisturbed sanctuaries for wildlife, treating these strips at a later time or in succeeding seasons if necessary.

In the control of early appearing insect pests, apply DDT, if possible, just before the emergence of leaves and the main spring migration of birds; for late appearing pests, delay applications, whenever practicable, past the nesting period of birds. Adjust crop applications and mosquito-control applications so far as possible to avoid the nesting period.

Because of the sensitivity of fishes and crabs to DDT, avoid as far as possible direct application to streams, lakes, and coastal bays.

Wherever DDT is used, make careful before and after observations of mammals, birds, fishes, and other wildlife.

Wildlife scientists were not working blind with DDT after 1946.

Full text of USFWS Circular 11, by Clarence Cottam and Elmer Higgins, 1946.


May 2021, flag-flying dates

May 1, 2021

Childe Hassam,

Childe Hassam, “Victory Day, May 1919,” 1919, oil on canvas, 36 x 21 3/4 inches (91.4 x 55.2 cm), American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY. There were at least twenty-three paintings in Hassam’s series of flag paintings. This Victory Day celebration no longer occurs, though there are several other May days to fly the colors.

May has three days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, three days designated in other federal laws,  and three statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.

Interestingly, the three designated days all float, from year to year:

  • Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May (May 9, in 2021)
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May (May 17)
  • Memorial Day, the last Monday in May (May 31)

Residents of these states celebrate statehood; South Carolina and Wisconsin share May 23:

  • Minnesota, May 11 (1858, the 32nd state)
  • South Carolina, May 23 (1788, the 8th state)
  • Wisconsin, May 23 (1848, the 30th state)
  • Rhode Island, May 29 (1790, the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the Constitution)

In 2016 President Obama issued a proclamation calling on citizens to fly the flag on May 1, Law Day. It’s also Loyalty Day, which got a proclamation from President Obama calling for flag flying in 2016.

Trump did the same in 2017, and for Loyalty Day, surprising me that his office was organized enough to do it.

May 8 marks the 76th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the day the Axis Powers in Europe surrendered at the end of World War II.  Some years that day is marked by a proclamation calling for flag flying.  (You may fly your flag then even if Congress and the President do nothing.)

In recent years Presidents have proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, with flags to fly at half-staff. We might expect another such declaration in 2021.

May 22 is National Maritime Day, under a Joint Resolution from Congress from 1933. President Joe Biden may proclaim that day as a day to fly the flag, too.

Twelve events on fourteen days to fly the U.S. flag.  May could be quite busy for flag fliers.

  1. Law Day, May 1, AND
  2. Loyalty Day, May 1
  3. Victory in Europe Day, May 8
  4. Mothers Day, May 9
  5. Minnesota Statehood, May 11
  6. Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15 (half-staff flags; the law for Police Week calls for flags to be half-staff the entire week in which May 15 occurs, May 9-15 in 2021)
  7. Armed Forces Day, May 17
  8. National Maritime Day, May 22
  9. South Carolina Statehood, May 23, AND
  10. Wisconsin Statehood, May 23
  11. Rhode Island Statehood, May 29
  12. Memorial Day, May 31
US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court's west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court’s west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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